Out of the darkness, a modest hero emerged


She used to be an ER nurse at Hopkins, so it's going some for Alice Brazier to say the accident on Falls Road was "the worst thing I've ever seen." She also says she "never felt so helpless in all my life." Of course, back in the ER, there were other nurses, doctors, equipment, instruments, lights. The accident victims she worked on had already been treated, to some degree, by paramedics.

But out there -- 10 o'clock of a cold night on a stretch of Falls Road in Baltimore County -- the accident was fresh, and there was nothing but this burning car with a young man trapped inside. Neither police nor paramedics had arrived. Alice Brazier was one of the first motorists to stop at the scene.

Already another motorist, a young man, had been trying to free the stranger trapped in the car. Brazier calls him the hero of this story. "Your hero is Joshua Passe," a Baltimore County police officer tells me.

More on Passe in a minute.

First, a quick take on the accident: Monday, Dec. 9. Head-on collision involving a southbound Toyota Corolla that sped into a right curve, crossed the center line and collided with a northbound Ford Explorer. The driver of the Toyota was 18; his passenger was his 8-year-old brother. The driver of the Explorer had injuries but, according to the paramedics' report, managed to walk away from the wreck.

The Toyota got the worst of it and, for a time at least, both brothers were trapped inside. At some point, hands (probably Joshua Passe's hands) reached out of the darkness and managed to free the 8-year-old.

But then the fire started in the Toyota, with the driver still in it, both his thighs fractured.

When Alice Brazier came upon the scene, this Passe had articles of clothing in his hands and he was trying to beat down the flames around the driver.

"It was horrible," Brazier says. "The driver was inside and he couldn't move. He was stuck in the driver's seat, and the heat was overwhelming. It was hard to get near it. This young guy [Passe] kept trying to beat down the flames.

"The driver, it seemed, was going to burn right in front of us, and I don't know how, but he must have known he had to do something because, all of a sudden, he gave this big heave and he just thrust himself out of the car. And then this [Passe] pulled him away from the car to the side of the road."

Moments later, the Toyota was engulfed in flames, according to the police report.

"[The driver] was awake and he was talking to me, and I stayed with him," Brazier says. "He said his legs were painful, he said he wanted to die. He was very young. I never felt so helpless in all my life. I tried to keep him calm. I kept talking to him. His face was bloody and swollen. Eventually, he became unconscious. After the paramedics came, I took his blood pressure. It was very low."

Paramedics stabilized the 18-year-old and got him to a helicopter to Hopkins. He survived, and is now in a Towson nursing facility, where he gets daily physical therapy. Joshua Passe, who was burned in his rescue efforts, is out there somewhere, perhaps too modest to return this columnist's phone calls. But that's OK.

"At some point during this whole thing," Alice Brazier says, "after it was all over really, I became aware of the fact that [Passe] was only in his underwear; he had taken off all his clothes to help knock down the fire and keep it away from the driver. What so impressed me was that someone would give of himself for another like that."

Say it with crab meat

When Caryn Herlocker bought the last pound of crab meat at the Westminster Super Fresh on Christmas Eve, the woman next to her cried. Having phoned several stores, Herlocker knew she had grabbed the last pound available in the city. So, in the spirit of the season, the women got a container and spoons from the deli and, out on the parking lot, divided the delicacy in half.

Balance and dignity

Drive-by observations from a TJI reader:

"As I proceed south on Maryland Avenue, I see an elderly Asian woman at the corner of North Avenue. She's practicing tai chi, gracefully moving her arms and legs like the fluttering wings of waterfowl. As I travel Charles Street past Wyman Park, I often see a group of Asian senior citizens assembled at the south end of the park. Some are sitting on the benches. Others are stretching to prepare for some sort of exercise. There is a serenity and a dignity to this group. They are practicing things that bring balance to their lives.

"On the opposite side of 29th Street, a woman waits to cross to the park with a husky Rottweiler. They move slowly because the dog limps from an injury to one of his front legs. But the dog moves steadily forward. When the dog reaches the north side of 29th Street, it pauses to rest for just a moment and then continues into the park. The dog has lost the joy of running but not the joy and dignity of life. The dog has found a balance, too."

This Just In appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can contact Dan Rodricks by voice mail at 332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, by electronic mail at TJIDAol.com, or through the World Wide Web at http: //


Pub Date: 12/27/96

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